By Bel Hernandez
Hollywood — With English-language TV networks trying to play catch up on how to attract the fastest growing U.S. demographic, U.S. Latinos, which have an estimated $1.5 trillion dollar spending power; Ben Silverman is way ahead of the game.
With Silverman’s record in developing TV content specifically focused on Latinos and the recent announcement that his Electus production company had sold telenovela Loteria to NBC as part of his company’s three for-one-pact, he is the man to look to when in need of stories geared to Latinos in English.
His track record speaks for itself. Back in 2006 he teamed up with Salma Hayek and Silvio Horta to produce Ugly Betty (based on the Colombian telenovela Betty La Fea), which ran for four years on ABC from 2006 – 2010. He also extends his interest of Latino themed projects to film. Silverman is also currently producing Hands of Stone, about the life of legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran.
Working with Latino creatives is a habit of Silverman’s and he knows his talent. He also knows that to give a Latino themed project a good chance it makes good sense to bring talented writers to the project. For Loteria he has brought Under the Same Moon’s Ligiah Villalobos to pen the project about a Mexican-American mogul who is killed in a suspicious car crash and has cut his kids out of his will.
English language shows about Latinos on broadcast TV? It makes sense considering the demographics. According to a 2013 BLS American Time Use Survey, U.S. Latinos watch 4.35 hours of television daily. With young U.S. bilingual, bicultural, 2nd and 3rd generation Latinos being the fastest growing demographic, Silverman is on to something. So much so that even Univision a Nielsen top rated Spanish Language TV network and media behemoth Disney joined to launch Fusion, their English-language cable network to cater to Millennials (AKA English-speaking Latinos).
Back in 2007, when Silverman took over the reins at NBC as Co-Chairman one of the first projects he introduced at the network was the Colombian telenovela Sin Tetas No Hay Gloria — it was a no go. However Silverman has had better luck of late with the telenovela into the English language TV show theory. He teamed up with Sofia Vergara and Luis Balaguer’s Latin World Entertainment to produce Killer Women at ABC, which is based on the Argentine crime drama Mujeres Asesinas. In September of 2013 the creative trio also sold the half-hour comedy, Speak American to FOX.
Killer Women premiered on ABC January 7th (to dismal ratings), and although not a Latino themed show, it does qualify with Vergara and Balaguer as executive producers and Fernando Avila as one of the leads.
Speak American on the other hand is centered on a young Latina, America Aviles, who works as an accent-reduction teacher that hires a stranger with unconventional methods to teach her class. No word on any pick-up on this one yet.
Silverman’s other telenovela in development, also part of his three-for-one deal with NBC in development, is Black Widow, which is based on a Venevision telenovela about a woman whose last three husbands have died under mysterious circumstances. In addition he has Jane the Virgin, based on a Venezuelan telenovela, at The CW.
With his stable of telenovelas, Loteria, Black Widow, Jane and the Virgin and Speak American all at some stage of the development process (and Killer Women fights to stay on) you could say Silverman is mining possible television gold if the audience (not just Latinos) responds.